Mason Mathews

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Mason Mathews
Mason Mathews, Greenbrier County, later life.jpg
Member of the Virginia House of Delegates
from the Greenbrier district
In office
Preceded by Thomas Creigh
Succeeded by Seat abolished
Personal details
Born December 15, 1803
Lewisburg, Virginia (now West Virginia)
Died September 16, 1878 (aged 74)
Lewisburg, West Virginia
Resting place Old Stone Church, Lewisburg, West Virginia
Political party Whig
Spouse(s) Eliza Reynolds Mathews
Relations Mathews family
Occupation Merchant

Mason Mathews (December 15, 1803 - September 16, 1878) was an American politician. A Whig, he was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates for Greenbrier County during the American Civil War.

Mathews represented Greenbrier County as its Virginia delegate during secession of the American South and throughout the American Civil War, despite the county being taken into the Union on the formation of West Virginia in 1863. The seat was abolished from the House at war's end.

In 1877 his son Henry M. Mathews was the first ex-Confederate elected to a governorship when he became governor of West Virginia.[1] This event represented the rise of the Bourbon Democrat.[1]

Early life[edit]

Mason Mathews was born on December 15, 1803 in Lewisburg, Virginia to Mary (née Edgar) and Joseph Mathews.[2] Archer Mathews, his father's uncle, was a founder of Lewisburg,[3] and Joseph moved his family to the city soon after its formation in 1782.[3][4][5] When his father became disabled after an injury, he worked as a store clerk to support the family.[2] He married Eliza Shore Reynolds and had eight children: Mary Edgar, Sally Ann, Henry Mason, Virginia Amanda, Alexander Ferdinand, Joseph William, Eliza Thomas, and Sally Patton.[5]

He was elected sheriff of Greenbrier County around 1825 and in 1830 was appointed its commissioner of the revenue.[2] He was additionally a justice of the peace for the cities of Frankford and Lewisburg.[5] In 1859 he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates for Greenbrier County as a member of the Whig Party, replacing Thomas Creigh.[6]


Brigadier General Henry A. Wise. Mathews spent time in Wise's camp during his feud with fellow CSA general John B. Floyd.

Mathews, like many northwestern Virginians, opposed secession.[5][7] When the Ordinance of Secession passed, however, he claimed allegiance to the Confederate States of America.[5] Unionists from northwestern Virginia soon met at the Wheeling Convention to establish the Restored Government of Virginia.[7] Greenbrier County did not send a representative to the convention.[6] President Abraham Lincoln recognized the Restored Government, which encompassed Greenbrier County, as the legitimate authority for the whole of Virginia,[7] and in 1863 this area was incorporated into the new state of West Virginia.[8] Though living in the Union, Mathews traveled to Richmond, Virginia to represent his county in the Virginia House of Delegates throughout the war.[3]

On the outbreak of war, his sons volunteered for the Confederate States Army. Capt. Alexander F. Mathews was assigned as aide-de-camp to Brigadier General Henry A. Wise.[5] In summer 1861, General Wise feuded with fellow general John B. Floyd over blame for the Confederate loss at the Battle of Carnifex Ferry in the western Virginia region.[9] Mathews spent several days in the camps of both Wise and Floyd and afterward wrote to President Jefferson Davis urging that both men be deposed, stating, "I am fully satisfied that each of them would be highly gratified to see the other annihilated."[10][11] Davis subsequently removed Wise from his command of the western Virginia region.[9]

Mathews' property was raided during the 1862 Union Army occupation of Lewisburg. In a letter to a son he recalled, "[t]hey appropriated everything they wished when they went, many fared worse than I did."[5] He cited the loss of livestock, material goods, and at least two slaves, who joined with the Union.[5]


When the Confederacy dissolved, the Greenbrier County seat in the Virginia House of Delegates was abolished. Along with all other Confederate soldiers and office holders, Mathews was barred from holding state office.[1]

In 1871, state rights were returned to former Confederates, allowing the Democratic party to gain control of the West Virginia legislature. Henry M. Mathews was sent as a delegate to the 1872 Constitutional Convention to overhaul the Republican-drafted 1863 West Virginia State Constitution.[12] In 1876 he was elected 5th governor of West Virginia from the Democratic Party. He was the first ex-Confederate elected to a governorship, and his election represented the beginning of the quarter-century era of the Bourbon Democrat.[1]

Mathews died of pneumonia in Lewisburg in 1878 and was buried at the Old Stone Church in Lewisburg, West Virginia.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Addkison-Simmons, D. (2010) "Henry Mason Mathews". e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. Retrieved December 11, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c "Mathews Family of Greenbrier". from "The History of West Virginia, Old and New Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc. (Chicago and New York:)", vol 2: pp. 7-9. Retrieved 2012-10-19
  3. ^ a b c Rice, Otis K. 1986. A History of Greenbrier County. Greenbrier Historical Society, p. 132
  4. ^ "The Credit of the County". Historical Booklet, Greenbrier Co., 1938. Retrieved 2012-10-19
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Combs, James Thurl (1987). "Greenbrier, C.S.A. Wartime Letters of Mason Mathews to his son Captain Joseph William Mathews, C.S.A." The Journal of the Greenbrier Historical Society (Parsons, West Virginia: Greenbrier Historical Society) V (1): 5-44.
  6. ^ a b Leonard, Cynthia Miller 1978. The General Assembly of Virginia, July 30, 1619-January 11, 1978: a bicentennial register of members. Virginia State Library., pp 105, 109.
  7. ^ a b c "VIRGINIA.; The Restored Government of Virginia--History of the New State of Things". The New York Times. June 26, 1864. 
  8. ^ A State of Convenience:The Creation of West Virginia. West Virginia Archives & History. Retrieved November 12, 2014.
  9. ^ a b "Confederate General Henry Wise Relieved of Duty; 'Contraband' Allowed in Navy" Archived 2013-12-21 at the Wayback Machine.. Civil War Daily Gazette. Retrieved November 21, 2012.
  10. ^ Rice, Otis K. 1986. A History of Greenbrier County. Greenbrier Historical Society, p. 264
  11. ^ Cowles, Calvin Duvall (1897). "The War of Rebellion: A compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1 Volume 5. Government Print Office: 1897. Retrieved November 12, 2014.
  12. ^ Stealey III, J. E. (2010). Constitutional Convention of 1872. e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. Retrieved December 11, 2012.